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Hierophant

You have a gift that you (and likely others) believe allows you to interpret the will of the gods. By scrutinizing and interpreting various signs via various methods, you gain an understanding of what some might consider sacred mysteries, even perhaps gaining insight into someone’s current situation or possible future. The gods and their designs are beyond mortal comprehension, but you are able to at least glimpse at their divine plans and intents.

Skill Proficiencies: Investigation, Religion

Languages: Two of your choice

Equipment: A set of ceremonial robes, a bejeweled vessel or holy symbol worth 5 gp, a censer, brazier, or deck of stylized cards, and a pouch containing 5 gp.

Feature: Interpret the Signs

You have a talent for understanding the will of the gods by interpreting various signs. Perhaps you read the entrails of sacrificial animals, study the patterns of tea leaves, perform tarot readings, or observe the movements of the heavens. In any case, you are able to attempt to read such signs in an effort to gain insight into the future. Whenever you wish to observe such a sign, you must select a particular person, place, or event that has not occurred yet. You may spend ten minutes performing a ritual and studying the signs that result from it, and at the end of that observation, the GM may choose to grant you some insight into whatever the subject that you selected was.

It is entirely up to the GM how often and/or well this feature works, though the GM is encouraged to use this feature to occasionally introduce important clues, plot hooks, or other story elements to the player. It is also suggested that this information should be delivered in a cryptic or vague manner.

For example, if the player character performs a tarot reading on the local noble who hired the party of adventurers to investigate the haunted windmill, the GM may choose to tell the player that the cards reveal that the local noble has darkness surrounding him, impending doom at his door, or ill fortune lurking on the horizon for him. One or more gods must have it in for this person, they might surmise.

This could mean any number of things, but the GM should not tell the player something direct like, “Someone will try to kill the noble tomorrow night” or “the noble’s prize pig is sick.” It is best to leave the insight cryptic, but give the player something meaningful to give them some clue to work with, especially one that helps establish a certain tone for the situation.

Fleshing Things Out

Some questions to consider when determining how this background applies to your character: Which gods tend to feature in the signs you study? Is it always the same god(s) or does it vary? How did you come by this ability? How do you feel about your gift? What do you do with the knowledge you glean?

You should also consider what caused you to take up the role of an adventurer. Did things you foretold give you the inspiration or imperative to go on a quest? Did those quests lead to a life of adventuring? Were you an adventurer first and your exploits led you to develop a relationship with one or more gods whose signs you now interpret?

d8 Personality Trait
1 I never accept food or drink from strangers.
2 The gods say I’m allowed to nap wherever I want.
3 I am generous to my friends.
4 I like to fix things that are broken.
5 I don’t understand most humor.
6 I find comfort in music.
7 I traffic with gods: what danger should I fear?
8 I like to be the center of attention.
d6 Ideal
1 Predestination. The future is set. The world is never random. (Lawful)
2 Protection. If I can foresee disaster, I can help try to prevent it. (Good)
3 Abuse. True or false, so long as others believe me, I can use that to my advantage. (Evil)
4 Randomness. Fate changes every moment. The signs give but a momentary glimpse. (Chaotic)
5 Impartiality. The signs are impartial, free of context or intent. They are simply fact. (Neutral)
6 Efficiency. I can use this foreknowledge to make better choices. (Any)
d6 Bond
1 I received this gift during a strange ritual.
2 This gift drove my mother mad; will it do the same to me?
3 I am a local celebrity because of my ability.
4 Those who can do what I do are hunted in the place I’m from.
5 I am merely an apprentice. My master has the true talent.
6 I have foreseen a great danger that I must try to prevent.
d6 Flaw
1 I am extremely offended by those who doubt me.
2 I never change my mind once I’ve made a decision.
3 I’m sarcastic at inappropriate times.
4 Regular bathing is recommended, not required… right?
5 My table manners are atrocious.
6 I don’t make eye contact with anyone.

Variant Hierophant: Soothsayer

While most hierophants interpret signs and portents in a religious context, there are some who take a more academic, arcane approach to such things, often going by the moniker of soothsayer rather than hierophant. If you choose the Soothsayer variant of the Hierophant background, this background gives you proficiency in the Arcana skill instead of Religion.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

The Big Book of Backgrounds Copyright 2019, P.B. Publishing, Phil Beckwith, and Cody Faulk.